Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic the cultural mechanisms for maintaining class deference have been at their most apparent in years. While we are told that we are all in this together, time and again the behaviour and the subtle subtexts of the pronouncements of the 1% demonstrate that their true world view is not as egalitarian as they like to pretend. Not only do the rules for the 99% not apply to the 1%, but the privilege of the 1% is clearly prioritised above the communities of the 99% by government and business at almost every opportunity.
An article published in the Guardian on 14th May stated that the UK government had over the last few months signed several new supply contracts with various pharmaceutical companies. These contracts were issued without going through the usual tendering process due, according to the government, to the ‘extreme urgency’ of the situation. Among the various medicines that were being put on order, perhaps the most newsworthy was hydroyxchloroquine.
The largest of these contracts, worth £7.5 million, went to Accord Health in Barnstaple. Accord Health’s parent company is Intas Pharmaceuticals Ltd., based in Ahmedabad, India. While Intas is primarily owned by the Chudgar family, there are several private equity firms with an interest in Intas. One of the larger of these is the Blackstone Group.
Interestingly Blackstone Group is the same private equity firm that holds the dubious honour of ranking second out of over 19,000 corporations for donations made to political groups and individuals in 2020 in the USA, bankrolling both Republicans and Democrats to the tune of $21 million.
The evidence against Hydroxychloroquine is now so bad even Fox News has had to break ranks with the Trump Regime in order to protect their viewers from killing themselves. But even that hasn’t stopped the UK and the USA governments from handing over tax-payers money to billionaires for miracle cures and magic beans.
The fact that the mainstream media isn’t calling this out for what it is, embezzlement, fraud and potentially corporate mass-manslaughter, is yet another example of the ongoing propaganda of class deference in order to cover up the exploitation of the masses. While we watch our communities get ravaged so that the rich can accumulate ever more wealth, we have to wait silently in the forlorn hope that the journalists, commentators and opposition politicians develop a basic conscience.
But it doesn’t stop there. In 2019 Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, who also happens to be a Trump-donor, an arch climate-crisis-capitalist, a member of the now infamous Council on Foreign Relations, and an ex- Managing Director of Lehman Brothers, donated $188 million to Oxford University. The university that has been shown time and again to disproportionately fast-track the sons and daughters of the wealthiest into positions of power and wealth. Just look at the UK cabinet as an example of this.
The realisation that the political arm of the 1% manage society in order that the economic arm of the 1% can continue to exploit the 99% should not surprise anyone. As it has done for centuries, one hand washes the other. Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative, UKIP, Republican and Democrat have all shown time and again that their primary role is to oppress the pursuit of equality. Even the political parties that do attempt to equalise society are either co-opted, discredited or simply destroyed.
The political system in the “wealthy democracies” is designed and maintained to do two jobs, to stop progressive politics from spreading, and to maintain the privilege of the 1% from one generation to the next. One of the key mechanisms to doing this is instilling and maintaining a culture of class deference. And it is not just the “right” that fall foul of this within the neoliberal consensus.
After the last twenty years there really can’t be that many people still buying into the pantomime of democratic meritocracy. But perhaps the hardest pill to swallow is when the concentration of wealth through the exploitation of the masses takes place under the cover of a crisis. Their class, from the top all the way to the bottom, are all tasked with maintaining the political oppression and the economic exploitation, which they do by maintaining the pantomime that the 1% are intellectually superior.
Of course one of the most recent examples of this is the Dyson debacle. Only a few weeks ago, on the 27th April, Dyson issued a press release that the government had cancelled the order because the ventilators were now not needed. Adding that Sir James would be covering the supposed £20 million he spent on developing and preparing to bring to market the new ventilator. It is not entirely surprising that everyone is brushing this one under the carpet as it had been mired in criticism from the offset.
One of the key criticisms of this was that awarding the contract to a proposal that required designing a new product as opposed to increasing production of an existing product added several levels of inevitable testing, redesign, and approval that would waste a huge amount of time and money.
And as easy as it is to imagine that an Eton and Oxford educated classics graduate could make that mistake, the knighted engineer/inventor and of course tory donor that had previously admitted that his vacuum cleaner had taken over four years and 5,000 prototypes to perfect should have really mentioned this in his proposal. But that of course would be putting people before profit, something that Dyson has always struggled with. So, again, unsurprisingly the political hand and economic hand wash each other, all the while the cultural hand trumpets class deference as a patriotic duty.
At this point it is worth mentioning that while back in mid-March it was being reported that the UK was facing a massive shortage of ventilators, more recent research is beginning to suggest that ventilators are not the magic bullet in all cases. However, there is now enough evidence to argue that a shortage of intensive care bed facilities including ventilators and personal protective equipment for attending medical staff will more than likely lead to a greater number of deaths in the longer term. Ventilators are not the magic bullet, but they are definitely a very important bullet.
The ineptitude of an hereditary ruling class blinded by jingoism and flailing in panic as they begin to realise that they are completely out of their depth puts all of our lives at risk. Whether it is rationing ventilators or paying dividends back to donors, the 1% can not be trusted to put the lives of the 99% before their own privilege.
Perhaps one of the more startling and recent examples of this class deference was when the Prince of Wales, a man who is estimated to be currently worth between $100-400 million, a fortune that was largely handed to him for no reason other than being born, told the poor to get back to work so that he and the other major UK landowners can continue filling their coffers. And true to form, quick to jump to his defence was the same government that his own mother and her courtiers had appointed only a few months earlier.
When the master speaks the servants are expected to tug the forelock and get back to servitude. But at what price?
On the 23rd May the UK death toll registered with the World Health Organisation stood at 36,393, which made it the highest per capita death toll across the G7 group of countries. And that is not even taking into consideration what many believe to be the real situation. Reuters, only 3 days later, was arguing that the actual death toll in the UK was probably closer to 47,000 people.
It is not just COVID-19 that we are facing. For many of the richest countries this is their first taste of the kind of catastrophic event that the climate crisis will make common place in the decades to come.
If we are to survive as a species then the time for class deference is over. Either we start taking steps towards establishing true democracy, or we resign ourselves to extinction brought on by the greed, cruelty, and incompetence of inherited privilege.